Series: Love at Stake #15
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Published by Avon on 29 April 2014
Sparks has come up with some fairly zany ideas over this series but Amazonian warrior women secreted in a Shangri-la style valley would have to be one of the more unexpected ones. Zoltan Czakvar, Translyvanian vampire, has been hunting his father’s murderer since 1241 and the only clue left behind was an unique design carved into the arrow shaft. A chance discovery of an identical arrow leads him to the wilds of Tibet where he meets a very unusual woman, Neona. She quickly captures his heart when she bops him on the head.
Zoltan was a surprising hero all round as I was expected a Vlad Dracula rip-off given his Translyvanian origins. He is uniformly gentle towards Neona, listens to her woes, actually communicates his feelings, treats her as his equal and didn’t feel the need to beat his chest to prove his manliness. When he and his fellow vamps decide to take down some of Lord Liao’s warriors, he simply ensures that Neona and the other women use bullet proof vests rather than their traditional breastplates and trusts that they will do their job.
Neona is left reeling from the loss of her twin sister, Minerva, and her mother is more interested in her sacred duty than comforting her. When she comes across Zoltan she insists he impregnate her, little realising that Zoltan isn’t capable because he is a vampire and he has a bit more respect for women than that. Her only real friend is a snow leopard called Zhan who facilitates the romance between the two when Zoltan bribes him with tinned tuna. Neona finds it increasingly hard to believe that all men are useless and evil as her mother insists and begins to openly defy her. I really admired Neona’s determination to stand up for what she believed in despite the risks.
Sparks’ trademark humour is still evident but she has toned it down somewhat so we feel Neona’s loss more keenly. She didn’t capitalise on this isolated group of women learning to adapt to modern technology which was unexpected as it was ripe fodder for easy laughs. Instead Sparks amps up the action, world-building and romance so it felt like a richer tale than The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo. I do have a slight issue with how easily the uber-evil villains are defeated as it is hard to take the good guys’ preparations seriously. Hopefully this will be redressed in the next book as a former foe fights back.
With such a long running series, it is inevitable that the quality of the books will vary – thankfully this one is right on the money. Sparks has breathed new life into the series by focusing on Zoltan, a character who has remained largely on the periphery, and a new species of shifters. Highly recommended.